HOME IN EXILE 309 commandeer labour. He asked Cheng to order the local government to obtain material in the open market and forbid levies of labour and material. Otherwise, he pointed out, "the harm done to the people would be greater than the fire itself." Standing in the streets of Huichow, he saw something that hurt him deeply. He saw the farmers sending cart-loads of grain and corn to the city to pay taxes to the government. Because of good crops, the price of grain had fallen, and the government bureau refused to receive them. This was characteristically Su's business. He made inquiries and found that the government wanted cash, since the price of grain was low. The farmers had to sell the grain at low market price to obtain the cash, but the cash that the farmers had to pay as tax was based on the prices of grain when they were high. The result was that the farmers had to sell two bushels of rice to obtain the cash for what they owed the government on one bushel. He wrote a long letter to Cheng, like those argumentative, impetuous letters he used to write to the Empress Dowager, exposing this practice for what it was—one-hundred-per-cent extortion from the peasants. He requested that Cheng arrange a con- ference with the tax commissioner and the transportation commissioner in the district, and propose to the government that the people should be taxed according to the current price of grain. Months later, he was happy to learn that the three commissioners had decided to sign a joint petition to the government. He began now to be interested in the reform and improvement of the city. Following his instinct for construction, through a conference with Cheng and the district and county magistrates he had two bridges built, one across the river and one across the lake at Huichow. To the building of these bridges Tseyu's wife contributed a number of golden coins that she had received from the court. While engaged in this work, he did one thing that was specially appreciated by the populace, namely, the building of a great mound to rebury the skeletons found in owner- less graves. After the skeletons were reinterred, he wrote a sacrificial prayer to these unknown dead. He was sure they were either common people or soldiers. He regretted the fact that some of the skeletons were incomplete and that he had to put them all together in a common .grave, but hoped that the spirits would live together in peace like members of a family. He also had a fish preserve built near the lake west of the city. This was a stricdy Buddhist institution based on the theory of reincarnation and the belief that many of the fish may have been human beings before. Once let into this preserve, the fish were safe for their lives. This lake became known as "Su Tungpo's Let-Live Lake", and down to the nineteenth century the scholars and people of the district still kept up this custom of buying a few fish to loose them into the lake on festival days.